Police widen investigation to include day before Nicola Bulley went missing

Detectives return to the village of St Michael’s on Wyre to request CCTV from the day before she vanished

Martha McHardy
Sunday 12 February 2023 17:07 GMT
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Messages of hope tied to River Wyre bridge as Nicola Bulley search continues

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Lancashire Police has widened its investigation to include the day before Nicola Bulley disappeared.

Detectives returned to the village of St Michael’s on Wyre last week to request CCTV from the day before Nicola Bulley vanished on 27 January.

Police requested CCTV footage from a local garage that covers one of the key exit points from the fields where she went missing.

A garage worker confirmed the CCTV camera was operational and records vehicles on the main road through the village and the top of a country lane which branches onto the back of The Grapes, a pub close to where Bulley was last seen more than two weeks ago.

The 45-year-old’s phone was found on a bench on a steep riverbank overlooking the water
The 45-year-old’s phone was found on a bench on a steep riverbank overlooking the water (PA)

The worker, who did not wish to be named, told The Sun on Sunday: “Two smartly dressed officers came in following up, a man and a woman.

“They wanted the CCTV from the day before Nicola vanished and to take statements of any activity we had seen from that day. These officers were different to the ones in uniform, they seemed very assertive.”

A witness has told Lancashire police he saw two men acting suspiciously near the route that Nicola Bulley regularly walked her dog on the day before her disappearance.

The witness said he spotted the pair outside the church in St Michael’s on Wyre and on a nearby bridge on 26 January but it is unknown if this is connected to police collecting CCTV footage from 26 January.

Ms Bulley vanished without a trace along the River Wyre after dropping her two daughters, aged six and nine, off at school on 27 January.

Her phone was found on a bench on a steep riverbank, still connected to a work conference call at about 9.35am, while her dog Willow was found close by.

Just half an hour before the conference call ended, Ms Bulley texted a friend to book a playdate. She sent the message at 8.57am shortly before logging into the Teams call.

Police are working on the hypothesis that she fell into the river. Ms Bulley’s family also called in a private diving team to search for her.

A former Lancashire police officer has warned that any trace of Nicola Bulley by the stretch of river where she was last seen is gone.

Map showing Nicola Bulley’s movement since going missing on Friday 27 Januar
Map showing Nicola Bulley’s movement since going missing on Friday 27 Januar (Datawrapper/The Independent)
Police divers search the river last week
Police divers search the river last week (PA)

The retired police officer told The Telegraph that riverbanks and fields like the one where Ms Bulley was last seen are “not very forensically friendly”.

He explained there will be fingerprints and bootprints from all kinds of people in the area and without the exact shoes Ms Bulley was wearing when she disappeared, it would be near impossible to track her footprints.

Ms Bulley’s family dispute the police’s theory that she fell into the river and Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell said he is“100 per cent convinced” she did not fall in the river and told Channel 5 he wants to keep “all options open” about her disappearance.

Lancashire Police has said they are open to receiving any credible information about what happened to the missing mother, but it remained their belief that Ms Bulley had fallen into the river.

Mr Ansell said: “We’ve always been very careful that we don’t want to say, ‘oh, we think it’s that’, and then push that when it might not be.

“The most obvious thing, of course has always been the river. It’s always been my gut instinct and her sisters, and family that, that isn’t the case. Extensive searching, as you know is probably well aware has gone on in that river.”

Mr Ansell said the family is going through “unprecedented hell”.

Paul Ansell, right, told Channel 5 he wants to keep “all options open” about his partner’s disappearance.
Paul Ansell, right, told Channel 5 he wants to keep “all options open” about his partner’s disappearance. (PA)

“But that hope and that positivity in me is stronger than ever, and I’m never, ever going to let go,” he said.

Police investigating the disappearance of Ms Bulley have urged the public to avoid “distressing” speculation about what may have happened to her and warned that it was distracting for the police inquiry.

Superintendent Sally Riley said: “We would ask that people in the wider community, particularly on social media and online, do not speculate as to what may have happened to Nicola.

“This is particularly hurtful to her family, to her children, to her partner Paul, to her parents, her sister and her friends because it is not helpful to them, it is distressing and it is distracting for the police inquiry.

“Nor is it helpful if people, particularly if they have come from outside of the area, take it upon themselves to take the law into their own hands by trying to, for example, break into empty property,” Ms Riley continued.

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